Thursday, November 22, 2007

Lost luggage - 1 in 138?

Thanksgiving is the beginning of peak travel season, and what did I read this morning? That 1 in 138 checked bags gets lost.

Now that seems like quite a bit. It implies that someone on your plane is going to be sitting at their in-law's formal Thanksgiving dinner with jeans and a sweatshirt. Maybe it serves the in-laws right, but after a few days, it's not just the in-laws who care.

Yet the statistic above is skewed for a number of reasons. Most "lost" baggage actually gets found, and often quickly. In all my flying and that of my family, we've never had a "lost" bag for more than 24 hours (and only once was it overnight). (ok, they're biased) cites a Dept. of Transportation statistic that says only 1 in 20,000 bags are permanently lost.

I would imagine there are other issues at play, also. Connections are riskier, since it's pretty hard to screw it up on a direct flight, as you watch them put it on the conveyor and tag it, and they only have to get it on one plane. Of course, the time you really want to check vs. carry on is when you are going to spend 3 hours waiting for your connection and shopping at some random airport.

But let's get back to 1 in 138. What does it mean to you? It means if you are a typical air traveller (10 or fewer flights a year, 1 bag checked each time), you will only get a bag delayed about once every 9 years. Even if you took 50 flights a year, you are not likely to ever have one lost forever.

This assumes all flights are the same. There is a clear difference in international flights and at least some differences among carriers. I'd imagine, a flight from, say, budapest, to New York, is more likely to have a lost bag than a flight from DC to New York. When we went from Whenzhou to Gaungzhou in China, they were so concerned with theft, they made us purchase a 10 yuan ($1.25) lock for every suitcase. I guess it did the trick, because everything arrived, and ontime!


Ira Skop said...

Budapest, huh? Well, by pure coincidence, I just traveled to Budapest. We checked 3 bags each way, and none got lost. That increases the chances that the next traveler to Budapest will have a lost bag. Doesn't it?

Adele said...

Well, since we do not fly anymore
we do not have to worry about this
issue. :-)

Anonymous said...

The outcome of one random event does not effect the outcome of another, so no, the next traveler to Budapest does not have a greater chance of having her luggage lost.

For example, when you toss a coin, and get heads, there is still a 50% chance of getting heads on the next toss. Moreover, if you toss a normal coin ten times and get 10 heads, there is still a 50% chance of getting heads on the eleventh toss! -Deborah

Alan Salzberg said...

Note to Deborah: Ira was kidding...he and I have an ongoing joke about the mis-understanding of independence of certain probabilities. Having said that, I'd better go do my shopping. The weather forecaster said there was a 50% chance of rain yesterday and a 50% chance today. Since it didn't rain yesterday, you know that means the rain is coming today! ;-)

Mia said..., the world leaders in internet based luggage tracking, has developed a RFID enabled luggage tag for tracking lost luggage worldwide via the internet at

This is the latest innovation by the forward thinking company, which was established in 1999 to combat the growing problem of lost baggage and has sold their unique luggage tags to travelers around the globe.

Gravity Gardener said...

Some people look at vacation travel insurance as a way to mitigate the risks of unpredictable situations that can disrupt their travel schedule. This type of insurance is available to anyone who wants peace of mind that they will be compensated if anything does crop up that may cause their plans to be derailed.

Here are several areas that may warrant the purchase of vacation travel insurance:

1. Trip Cancellation or Interruption
2. Flight Connection was missed due to airline schedule
3. Travel Delays due to weather
4. Medical Emergency and hospital care (Accident or Sickness)
5. Baggage Delay or Loss

As indicated above, any of these situations can occur during your travel schedule and can become very disruptive to your vacation plans.If you have ever heard of a flight being canceled without notice or multitudes of passengers on a cruise ship experiencing a widespread illness, you know that it can happen to anyone. Those that have the foresight to take out travel insurance will still experience the disruption, but will be compensated based on their policy.

Gravity Gardener